Tokyo: Day 6

Today was undoubtedly the least busy day I’ve had since arriving in Japan, but I really needed a rest after four jam-packed days.

I had a very long lie-in before waking up in the afternoon and deciding to have a walk around Shinjuku, the area around my hotel. It was another very warm and humid afternoon and although I was only walking from a couple of hours, it was very tiring. I was trying to look for a place to buy some toys and gifts, but looking through the department stores and streets which seemed to be full of clothes stores like Gap and Topshop, I couldn’t find any. I was glad, though, to be indoors as long as possible, staying out of the heat and taking advantage of the air-conditioned stores. The gift buying, though, would have to wait for another day. After my walk, I went back to the hotel to catch up on emails and wait until it was time to meet up with my friends.

I met Mari at the station, who let me know that Sumie was running late, so we headed off to get something to eat. I’d heard a lot from them about how a local chain, Mos Burger, was much better than any western fast-food places so I decided to give it a try. It really was incredibly delicious and I can imagine myself getting addicted to them just in time to be separated from my nearest branch by several thousand miles.

Sumie joined us and we set out to find a place to drink. We first walked through Kabukicho, which is basically Tokyo’s version of Soho – rammed, neon-soaked, seedy side-streets with hostess bars and massage parlours standing cheek by jowl with dull looking commercial nightclubs with barkers outside (many of them West African) trying to bring punters in. Despite being one of the seamier parts of the city, it was still an interesting and exciting very busy area to walk through.

If this street looks a little familiar, I realised later that it was the one used here:

From there, we walked around the corner to the Golden Gai, which is an amazing little block full of narrow alleys with nothing other than places to drink. Sadly there were signs up saying “no cameras” so I couldn’t take photos. Most of the bars in the Golden Gai were extremely small, literally just bars with room to seat no more than four or five people. Many of them would only accept regulars, so it wasn’t likely to be a place we would be able to drink, but was really interesting to walk through, with every bar (there must have been approaching 100 of them) having its own unique personality.

We met with Noriko and continued to hunt for a place to drink, eventually finding a wine bar. The four of us shared a bottle of white wine and then ordered a bottle of red, which tasted much stronger than the type of wine they had asked for. They complained and eventually we were given a new bottle. They told me that when they lived in London they learned how to complain properly, and had continued to argue their point beyond the time at which most Japanese people would have backed down to the waiter, who had initially told them that they would have to pay for a new bottle.

We had a nice time chatting away and it felt like we got through the bottles quickly but before we knew it, it was past midnight and with no night buses available, they had to catch their last trains home. I had been hoping we could have a later night and I thought I’d be able to pay for their cabs home so we could go to some other bars and maybe try some karaoke, but when they told me how expensive their cabs would be, it quickly became apparent that it wouldn’t be possible. So, I walked them back to the station and then returned to the hotel, smiling at all the drunken businessmen and women I saw staggering to the train station as I went.

Tomorrow I’ll be on my own, so need to come up with some sort of plan. I might go to Roppongi Hills, where there is a very high observation deck in one of the skyscrapers. I’ve never been good with heights, but it does sound like a good way to see the city.